Tuesday, December 20, 2005

What to Do with Old Electronics

Union of Concerned Scientists

Rapid advances in technology come with a price: the equally rapid pace of obsolescence. The average lifespan of a computer, for example, will have dropped from 4.5 years in 1992 to approximately two years by 2005.

As a result, "e-waste"—discarded computers, TVs, cell phones, and other electronics—comprises one to four percent of the municipal solid waste stream, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. What's worse, this equipment is often made from non-renewable resources and contains hazardous chemicals including lead, chromium, cadmium, and mercury.

High Home Heating Prices: Issues and Solutions

Union of Concerned Scientists

Over a period of years, we can significantly reduce two of the major causes of this winter’s price increases—the growing demand for natural gas by power plants, and the vulnerability of our energy supply system—by diversifying our energy system with clean, home grown, and more decentralized renewable energy supplies.

Burning Buried Sunshine: Human Consumption Of Ancient Solar Energy

By Jeffrey S. Dukes, Dept of Biology, University of Utah.

Fossil fuels developed from ancient deposits of organic material, and thus can be thought of as a vast store of solar energy from which society meets >80% of its current energy needs. Here, using published biological, geochemical, and industrial data, I estimate the amount of photosynthetically fixed and stored carbon that was required to form the coal, oil, and gas that we are burning today.
Today’s average U.S. Gallon (3.8 L) of gasoline required approximately 90 metric tons of ancient plant matter as precursor material. The fossil fuels burned in 1997 were created from organic matter containing 44 × 1018 g C, which is >400 times the net primary productivity (NPP) of the planet’s current biota. As stores of ancient solar energy decline, humans are likely to use an increasing share of modern solar resources. I conservatively estimate that replacing the energy humans derive from
fossil fuels with energy from modern biomass would require 22% of terrestrial NPP, increasing the human appropriation of this resource by ~50%.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

No Talk and No Action

Why the Montreal climate summit was too painful to watch

by Bill McKibben, Grist Magazine

"Too painful because these are the years when we desperately need to be making progress. Eventually even we will have no choice but to start doing something about climate change. But each new issue of Science and Nature makes it clear that the important time is now -- that the climatic tipping point is nearer than we thought."

Friday, December 09, 2005

It Takes a Neighborhood

Reprinted from SEVEN DAYS newspaper [CITY LIFE section] 9/28/05

Mrs. Turner died last winter, and the 7.5-acre parcel she'd farmed on the eastern edge of Burlington for decades went on the market. Her family sold the property to the Burlington Community Development Corporation -- the first step toward the construction of a 33-unit co-housing development. Projects of this sort typically raise a host of "not in my backyard" objections. The design and permitting process surrounding this one, in my back yard, has attracted a different sort of attention. Case in point: this celebratory "perennial moving party."

Monday, December 05, 2005

The Cycle of Life

by Jim Doherty, Common Ground

"Biking is an acquired taste. It takes time to get used to how much fun it is; how much safer it can be to be doing 10 mph in fresh air rather than zero mpg in gridlock fumes. It takes some time to recognize how well biking works to rebuild the strength your body has lost to remote controls, computer mice and the brake and accelerator pedals"

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Grounds for Change

By Brian C. Howard, E Magazine. Posted December 3, 2005 on Alternet.

With more socially and environmentally conscious options in coffee shops and supermarkets, consumers can be sure their cups of joe aren't actually cups of woe.